Thursday, September 3, 2015

This World Enslaved!

We've reached Part 4 of the incredible story where Galactus had come to Earth seeking to reclaim the services of the Silver Surfer as his herald--and we left all the major players in a dramatic standoff, as Reed Richards...

Aw, heck, why don't we just let the sizzling splash page from this story's conclusion bring you up to speed on where Part 3 of this story left you hanging?

As we can see, this story has developed considerably since the Fantastic Four were confronted with the "air-walker," Gabriel, who pretended to herald the end of humanity but who instead was revealed to be the herald of Galactus (albeit an artificial construct). The day was saved by the timely arrival of the Silver Surfer--but with the appearance of Galactus, it turned out that the Surfer was the true focus of this bizarre encounter. Galactus, on the verge of gaining the Surfer's capitulation, now unexpectedly finds his ultimatum to his former herald trumped by the ultimatum of Reed Richards, who stands poised to strand the planet-eater on Earth unless his terms for Galactus are met.

(Does anyone else see a problem with stranding a world devourer on our planet?)

Before we get to Galactus's response, we should probably examine the key point of Reed's condition for returning his ship: "Swear to leave us in peace forever." As we found in Part 3, the whole problem with the return of Galactus centered on the fact that Galactus was side-stepping his earlier pledge to stay clear of Earth in order to force the Surfer to return to him. Compelling him to make another such pledge seems like a foolish (and pointless) course of action, since it's already been demonstrated that it's proven to be no guarantee of Galactus's cooperation.

And then there's the other, more obvious flaw in Reed's plan, which Galactus proceeds to make shockingly clear:

Check and checkmate, Reed, 'ol boy. Galactus has absolutely no reason to accede to your demands, while you have every reason to be terrified of his retaliation. In other words, your hand is on a destruct button to a spacecraft, not the Ultimate Nullifier this time--or hadn't you noticed?

For his part, the Surfer immediately surrenders--but Reed is adamant about insisting on his refusal to do so. "Not even survival is worth the cost of abject surrender!" Writer Stan Lee stays true enough to Reed's character here; but while his words would be a mark of heroism if they simply applied to the Fantastic Four, Reed now speaks for the entire human race--and Lee seems unwilling to have this story faced with the conflict that such presumption would normally lead to under the circumstances. Just take a look at the backlash the FF faced from a single city's population when the team resisted Gabriel, and you get an idea of what Reed's words would mean for them on a global scale.

Having voiced his counter-terms, Galactus departs for the docks district until dusk, when he will return for Reed's answer. The Army, now stationed in force in the area, sees the perfect opportunity to engage Galactus, and, to its credit, doesn't even think about getting the o.k. from Reed before doing so--not with "Thunderbolt" Ross barking out the orders. But even Ross hasn't dealt with a threat on the scale of the power of Galactus.

Meanwhile, Washington is livid with how Reed is handling Galactus's ultimatum, particularly when the Surfer is willing to return to his former master. To the Pentagon, there is no problem here, aside from the one which Reed has made. Off-panel, however, Reed has formulated a plan, one where he's willing to basically give Galactus everything he's asking for, including the Surfer.

Humanity may be breathing a sigh of relief, though it probably doesn't feel like much of a victory--not with Galactus's parting words hanging in the air like a blade-rigged pendulum. And it likely doesn't feel like a cause for celebration for the Surfer, who prepares to once again embrace a life of servitude.

Inexplicably, Reed struggles to restrain the Surfer from gaining altitude, endangering himself by reaching and exceeding his stretching limits in order to get the Surfer to listen to his reasons. Oddly enough, Reed has not communicated the details of his plan to anyone in authority--so his actions here must seem borne out of desperation, with no apparent reason behind them. Consequently, the Army has no choice but to act. Ordinarily, you'd think that Reed Richards, as leader of the Fantastic Four, would carry enough clout by now with the government to be given the benefit of the doubt--but this is a very tense situation, and the term "trigger-happy" was coined long before now:

The Surfer retrieves Reed and races out of sight; but as for the Army, tensions have now escalated, as the fighting-mad Thing advances on those who would open fire on his friend.

But, what of Reed? Mortally wounded, he receives a new lease on life, thanks to the incredible power of the one for whom he has put so many at risk:

On route back to New York, Reed briefs the Surfer on the details of his plan, to which the sky-rider gives his assent. But in order to put everyone at ease, Reed makes arrangements with Agatha Harkness to expedite getting the word out as to why the world need not fear the return of Galactus. The first order of business is to save his friends under fire by the Army:

...followed by putting the collective mind of all of humanity at ease.

Since Reed hadn't yet filled the Surfer in on his plan to send Galactus to another universe, he has to be feeling quite relieved that things worked out as well for the Surfer as they did. It's only by a stroke of luck that the Surfer used the words "in this universe" as part of his pledge of service to Galactus; otherwise, he would have been obligated to follow Galactus into the Negative Zone, leaving Reed's victory cup only half full.

Of course, it's debatable whether or not the Surfer truly considers himself better off.

The only other kink in Reed's plan is that there's no guarantee that Galactus will choose to remain in the Negative Zone. After all, even in our universe, there are still "worlds enough to sustain him for countless ages"; his only problem has been the lack of an advance scout such as the Surfer who could locate such worlds in a timely fashion, a problem he would still have in the Zone. But the point would become moot once Galactus makes his choice on whether or not to stay in this new universe.

Fantastic Four #123

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: John Buscema
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: John Costanza (as Jon Costa)


Colin Jones said...

In one of the panels Galactus says "For untold ages....I have wandered the cosmos alone and unloved" and he survived fine until he arrived at Zenn-La and met Norrin Radd so why does he even need a herald ? And having no herald didn't seem to worry Galactus when he stranded the Surfer on Earth.

Colin Jones said...

By the way, I didn't realize you could fly to the Negative Zone in a spaceship - I thought it was in another dimension, on a different plane of reality etc which is how Reed can enter it from his lab in the Baxter Building. I like the way Galactus mentions "...this island Earth" - I'm sure he's a fan of the sci-fi classic :)

Comicsfan said...

All good points, Colin. As far as the Surfer goes, Galactus may simply have come to find the services of the Surfer to be indispensable over time--so much so that he kept trying to replace him with other heralds after it became clear that he wouldn't be successful in luring him back. And given his attempts to do so in both this story and during his prior return to Earth, it indeed seemed apparent that Galactus found the Surfer's absence to be of great concern to him. We can probably assume that, when he banished the Surfer to Earth, he may have been "caught up in the moment," thinking that he could return to going it alone as far as searching for suitable planets but eventually coming to the conclusion otherwise.

The Negative Zone gambit seemed a little too "handy" to me as well, for just the reason you mention--the complicated method of entrance that Reed had set up in the Baxter Building, which didn't seem adaptable enough to be installed at a moment's notice elsewhere. I suppose if there was any environment which Reed could adapt to gain entrance to the Zone, it would be one to which Galactus had access--even something that amounted to a glorified space shuttle.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...